Offseason Program

Haden: 'I love it'

Joe Haden walked off the field at the close of the second week of the Steelers OTAs at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, and reporters and cameras surrounded him.

No, there wasn't breaking news they wanted to talk to Haden about. Instead, it was basketball that was on everyone's mind.

Haden, an ardent fan of the Cleveland Cavaliers, was sporting Cavs shorts (and yes, they were black and gold ones) during practice, so last night's opening game of the NBA Finals was definitely the topic of conversation.

It wasn't the only topic, though. Football did win out. While Haden hasn't missed a beat watching the Cavs play, the veteran corner also hasn't missed a beat during the team's OTAs. He has been a regular, showing his leadership in the secondary as well as picking up some things with the defense as well.

"For me, you can't get in football shape without playing football, without doing the stuff out here," said Haden. "When you are doing the plays on timing, working with your safeties, your linebackers, getting communication together, that is stuff you can't make up for. For me being new to the team, with new coaches, and changes in the secondary, the more people you can have here to get a grasp on things the better.

"As much as we get a chance to be here, I want to be here. Getting that work on the field with my teammates when I am out here, I am just going for it. It helps me get better, work on my techniques."

Those changes to the secondary that Haden is speaking about includes new secondary coach Tom Bradley. While the defense itself isn't making wholesale changes, it's his approach, his style and the techniques that are changing.

"He is very detail oriented," said Haden. "I think that is something with a lot of young players in our secondary, we need that accountability. Making sure he stays on the little stuff that we do, communication. Making sure he is on top of that. He is more of a college coach, in your face making sure you are paying attention to the little things. With our secondary I think that is going to make us a whole lot better.

"It's cool. I am trying to do the right thing, do stuff the right way and lead by example. Anything that he is doing helps us make a play, a step closer. A lot of this stuff is little tedious stuff, but at the end of the day it's stuff we need for the little details.

"Everybody is still trying to get things at the same time. We have some rookies in the room that are supposed to make an impact on the team. Everybody is going through it at the same time. Morgan (Burnett) being new to the system, he is a smart vet also. We have a lot of dudes and know we have to step up our play in our room. There is going to be a lot of competition. There are a lot of guys that are super talented. We have to make plays, get the defense down and keep the balls in front of us."

With a young secondary, Haden has quickly become a leader for the group, despite the fact that he hasn't even been wearing the black and gold for a full year yet. But as he heads into his ninth season, he is the go-to guy for young players and he doesn't mind it one bit.

"I love it," said Haden. "When I came into the league I had Sheldon Brown when I first got to Cleveland and Eric Wright. Those guys never hid information from me. They always made sure I was good. I knew what was going on. At the end of the day it is competition, but we want to make sure everybody can put their best foot forward. We have a lot of young dudes that love the game and want to be better. If they have any questions they want to ask me, I am not trying to hide any information. I want them to be the best that they can be. Even if they don't make this team, they can have that moving forward."